The SWAN Formula

Published: Nov 28, 2018
Modified: Mar 26, 2020

By AMA Staff

In their book Now…Build a Great Business (AMACOM, 2011), authors Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy discuss the SWAN Formula, named after executive recruiter John Swan. The letters also stand for Smart, Works Hard, Ambitious, and Nice. The authors explain:

1. Successful people are smart, especially when it comes to the skills and competencies required for their specific job. This is what Jim Collins meant in his business classic, Good to Great, when he wrote about "getting the right people in the right seats on the bus." People who have a gift for their particular job tend to work faster, make fewer mistakes, and are more productive.

And how do you tell if a person is "smart”? Simple. He or she asks a lot of questions.

2. People who actually want to "work hard" are more successful at their jobs. The basic rule is that "people don't change." A person who is unaccustomed to hard work is not suddenly going to transform under your supervision.

3. Candidates should be "ambitious" and able to demonstrate to you why they want this particular job. "Don't seek a flame-chaser," warns Steve Miles, vice chairman of Heidrick & Struggles, a top leadership advisory firm that provides executive search and leadership consulting. "Find people who are anxious to be effective and ambitious about this assignment, not some future promotion or benefit. They have to live for today in that job, not chase the flame of future possibilities."

4. "Nice." When we say "nice," in this case, we mean people who are positive, cheerful, easy to get along with, and supportive of others. They fit within the culture of your organization. Their beliefs are in alignment with your values and the customers your organization serves.

About the Author(s)

AMA Staff American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.